goodtech 09: the fragility of everything

Also featuring internet vending machines, rational do-gooding, a lot of stuff about the metaverse, and the future of goodtech

💡 Big Ideas

TL;DR: Talking about VCs is like asking questions in church, and the future of goodtech

My last newsletter became the basis for a short series on ‘what I learned in startupland.’ It turned out well, and then it got weird, because, well, the internet. I wrote about working my way through it here, if you’re interested.

To make a long story very, very short:

  • I would like to never be curated by Medium again;
  • The same ideas are received differently when they’re provided by a man on TechCrunch;
  • It is hard to write on the internet as a mom and a woman, because you want to be strong yet you are always vulnerable, no matter what you do; and
  • Talking badly about VCs is apparently a little like asking questions in church.

Here is the thing, though; I am too old for this shit.

This year is a transition point. My 38th birthday is coming up, I’m heading to Europe for ten weeks for my longest solo trip ever, it’s my teenager’s last year at home, and pretty much everything in my life is up for renewal.

Since I left startupland, I’ve been detoxing from the workpraycode culture (thank you, Victoria Chen) and spending time thinking about why I do all the things I do. This month I’d like to encourage you to do the same, a little spring cleaning for your inner self, whether you are in startupland or not.

Right now, we’re all so focused on the productivity religion that we’re playing with keyboard commands and new tech stacks and following work setup channels on instagram; we’re planning our entire lives in Notion and using zaps to do things that used to take us time & build trust, like sending birthday texts and replying to messages. We’re all chasing the next unicorn without worrying about how fragile all this really is.

But where is it all getting us? Even the creator economy has turned into hustle porn and everyone’s talking about whether they’re a founder or a joiner like it’s a new astrological sign with only two options.

For me, at least, I’ve landed somewhere in between Walden Pond retreat mode and focusing more on doing what I love, despite the dangers and doubts. I tried to build this newsletter while working in startupland, and now that I’m away from it a bit, I realize I have a lot more freedom to do what I actually like — research, write, tackle big ideas, and, yes, even be allowed to have opinions that are contrary to the status quo.

My original goal for goodtech was to build a monthly collection that was useful to builders in every sector, and to use it as a way to share what I learned while advising founders in the tech for good space. What I’d like to do next is give it the time and attention it deserves, now that I’m not working startupland hours, and refine it to be something I both enjoy doing and feel is useful for you.

In that spirit, here’s what you can expect to see me do with goodtech in the next several months:

✍🏼 Write longer essays on interesting stuff with deeper research. I got scattered by trying to do too many things at once. (I also totally did not believe people would ever read what I wrote on the internet.) We’ll still keep the sections with weird titles everyone loves so much, but Big Ideas will return to its original premise: a deep dive once per month on a weird, wonky research topic that interests me most. These will mostly focus on policy & tech ethics and the future of humanity. Big, messy, complicated research projects are one of my favorite things.

So far, I’m thinking about articles on topics like the movement of people and currency; national borders; the legacy ideas holding back the metaverse; Amartya Sen and the future of justice; the evolution of the creator economy; and more. I’d love so much if you sent me a weird but interesting topic you’d like to learn about. I would be happy to write it for you. ❤️

Goodtech subscribers will be the only ones with access to these posts, although I’ll continue to do short op-ed pieces on Medium (so I don’t have to go on Twitter or LinkedIn anymore).

🗺️Put more intention behind the goodtech community of founders. With the core group of founders I’m working with as a volunteer advisor — up to 80 or so at the moment! — we have a chance to do a lot more together. We’re starting to get interest from impact funds and grantmakers and have new opportunities to train people on how to set up and fund their companies. This feels like a bit of a long-term project, but I’m exploring it. (Please reach out if you have ideas, are interested, or know of other projects already doing this.)

💃🏼 Commit to projects that are truly passion projects, not side hustles. I’ve been slowly building out a set of resources for solo female entrepreneurs for years, whenever I could spare a moment that I didn’t have to work for money. It’s called One Woman Army and will share – for free forever – what I’ve learned over 20 years of freelance, agency, and sole proprietor work. It includes a bunch of legal and accounting tips along with courses I’ve taught for small businesses over the years in marketing, risk assessment, operations management, and more – along with advice for how to not burn out while being a woman who works her ass off and isn’t a Kardashian. I haven’t needed to teach or consult for very small entrepreneurs for a long time – but I still do it because I love supporting these people. This would be a beautiful way for me to give back all the love and support I’ve gotten along the way.

I’m also doing a lot more with my pen name sites (which have basically become like eat pray love for real humans, who just need to eat, sleep, and dream) and will be doing a travelogue under my pen name while I’m traveling.

🥃 Last but not least…drumroll please… I’m taking a two-month sabbatical from all the above 😅 Spending this time to detox has given me time to realize that although I now have time, for the first time, diving right back in to the way I’ve always existed isn’t the answer. I’ve given myself permission the last few months to try new things, to think and fail and have ideas, and to figure out who I am and what kind of life I’m building here.  It’s the birthday I’ve dreamed of since I was 19, and pregnant, and broke as hell, and as I’ve mentioned before — I worked my ass off to get here.

You’ll hear from me in May, just before I’m off to hike the Scottish Highlands and drink lots of whisky before spending a few weeks on the beach in Spain. I’ll be back with an issue in August of this year, although there may be sporadic pieces on the website in between as I’ll be meeting some cool people working on tech ethics in Edinburgh.

It would be a shame to stay small just because the rigidity of my past life is more comfortable than this.

After all, it isn’t just unicorns that are fragile; it’s all of this, all these millions of systems & human assumptions. Everything is fragile, and so are we.

When we stay small and brittle and cooped up in the place we thought we were supposed to be, we don’t get stronger — we just get more fragile.

That’s the wish I’m sending you this month, folks: don’t stay small. Get out of the office. Walk outside and breathe it in and stop giving up your very few f*cks worrying about refresh rates or gadgets or task apps. Stop worrying about everything — it is all going to shit with or without you.

Go do something terrifying and beautiful with your one wild and precious life.

🥑 Holy guacamole, that might actually work

Cool ideas for new ways of doing things

“Coins are the currency of the internet” in some places: You’re probably familiar with the ‘last mile’ problem here in the States for internet access. (FYI, it’s usually way more than a mile.)

Getting internet access to rural and undeveloped places is hard, because there’s little incentive in it for the companies we rely on for that infrastructure. Regardless of whether you think internet access should be a public utility or not, this is a pretty wild workaround: in the Philippines, pisonets provide internet access via vending machine — five minutes at a time.

💰 Show me the money

Replacing speed dating this month — some new opportunities for goodtech founders (jobs & funding). None of these are affiliates of or endorsed by goodtech, FYI.

Rethink Priorities, a research center associated with Open Philanthropy, has a ton of jobs and research opportunities available with Amanda, one of our favorite humans 😍. You can see all their available jobs here and learn more about them here.

Pioneer reached out to us this month with information about their tournament, two-month virtual accelerator, and more programs. You can check them out here.

Our friends at Effective Altruism have a new Future Fund (and some upcoming challenge opportunities among other programs). You can read more about their programs here.

If you’re a founder working in this space, be sure to check out our collective goodtech resources page, where you can find more information about tech for a cause, how to structure a company, and funding resources (both grant and VC). We’re always collecting and adding more, so share anything you find that might be helpful to other founders (send it over to

🚀 Moonshot

One big idea, every week

I’ve been thinking and chatting a lot lately about the metaverse.

It inspires dread and a feeling I can only describe as icky in its current form — but I think that’s just because we all see what’s happening there are more of the same old, same old. Who wants a new virtual world that looks and functions and creates inequalities just like the real one?

But I remember reading sci-fi in the ’80s and ’90s and being enthralled with the idea. Even now, a clear divide between IRL and virtual would probably serve everyone — especially all those who are just discovering remote work due to Covid — with a clear separation between work and life.

I doubt it will turn out that way, though; in the meantime, here are a few good pieces on the metaverse you might enjoy. Maybe you can think of a better way, ye of more faith than I. 😉

🥂 Upcoming Events

🤩 Our next goodtech coworking is May 6. Join us at 12 EST for an hour of chill & quiet coworking so you can focus on something you love. We’ll stop at 1 EST and do a quick round of introductions & problem sharing before we call it a wrap at 1:30 EST.

Reply to this email to be added to the invite!

📚 I’m on a curiosity voyage, I need my paddles

Books, podcasts, articles and more to feed your brain

  • A free course on humane tech: Foundations of Humane Technology
  • In case you didn’t believe the other 438,567,921 articles about this, older millennials are completely screwed
  • “The Rise of the Rational Do-Gooders” – WP article on effective altruism (paywall)
  • Football kids: this article on the American economy from Joshua Edward takes aim at the current model of capitalism in the States.
  • This is exactly what the American economy has become — a bunch of fat 10-year-old kids screaming at everyone else to play football and demanding that they stop asking for a different game where they might actually have a chance to win. This is sort of the idea behind the economic concept of the tragedy of the commons, but with a bit of a twist — the loudest and biggest asshole always wins.” Read more on Medium.
  • I’m the new community manager at Ghost, an open-source software platform with a working model of sustainable profit that’s hosted this blog, my newsletter, and my pen name sites for a few years now. If you are looking for a place to put your internet life, I’d highly recommend checking them out.

May you all get the rest you need and the joy you deserve this month. See you in May!


PS: A huge shout out to Rick in Oregon for being a paid subscriber supporting the goodtech community. It means so much to me 💌